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State of designer and niche fragrances

State of designer and niche fragrances 11 years ago
I suppose once your in this crazy hobby long enough, you come to the conclusion that the only thing that matters is if what you are contemplating on purchasing smells great enough for you to own it.

We all owe it to ourselves to be open to both designer and niche releases. After all, it only stands to reason that there's good and bad in both categories.

The last few years, I have found ( by prodigious sampling ) that niche lines have gained the upper hand simply because they are more daring to release creations outside the proverbial box. Don't misconstrue this statement as derogatory toward designers per se. It's simply a matter of designer houses marketing more generic and safe fragrances that ( to me ) result in somewhat boring sample wears.

Back in the day, designer houses WERE the measuring stick. They do release more economical scents compared to niche lines and not all niche is good ( regardless of the price). I admit that I gravitate toward the classics because of their boldness, yet these days, I find myself sampling mostly niche. I have smelled ( almost ) nothing designer as of late that would convince me to purchase.

Do you feel as I do......or do you think designer fragrances are as good as they ever were?
11 years ago
When I started to wear perfumes (back in the late 80s as a teenager) designer brands were all which was available in perfume stores.
My first perfume loves were from CHANEL (the good old "Coco") and Calvin Klein ("Obsession") amongst others.
The 80s were full of heavy, daring and provocative scents which nowadays are considered outdated, I suppose.
They were good, they had a vast influence on my taste until this very day and they represent an olfactory era long gone.

I had many perfume love affairs, orientals and fruity, green and floral, masculine (feeling daring at 25 wearing Tommy Hilfiger for Men) but I returned to my roots, so to speak.

Various reformulations changed what I loved back then (but I do still enjoy Coco a lot), leaving those perfumes behind which did not stand the test of time.
"Samsara" stayed and makes my heart sing.

"Obsession" changed a lot and I cannot stand it anymore, even though it all started for me finding this scent strip in a VOGUE magazine, aged 15, searching for glamour and grown-up flair.

Back then designer perfumes were the thing to have, they were status and showed one´s taste.

Sorry for my long post but I would like to share all this with you....

When I first encountered Parfumo (I was looking for a perfume comment) I entered a world of undescribable variety and I learned a lot about perfumes. I had many bottles in my life but I never really dug into the matter and never cared about notes.
It was when I came into contact with more and more very special and artful perfumes that I discovered the limits of so-called "mainstream" designer perfumes.
Most of them I knew, the new ones were exchangeable in their similarity and I still deeply dislike this repetitiveness.

So niche was the way to go and I found exciting new fumes, taking me on journeys where I never was before.

All in all I think that niche is my preferred hunting ground now but once in a while I discover a new treasure amongst the designer perfumes. Not all of them are crap and not all niche scents are great. The last two really daring designer scents I come to think of are "Prada Eau de Parfum" and "Angel"...or "Black Orchid".
Some hidden treasures amongst designer scents are "Azuree", "Knowing" and "Private Collection" by Estee Lauder.

Niche is wonderful but its roots are based in classic designer scents. They continue where mainstream stopped the journey.
Last edited by PontNeuf on 04.01.2012, 06:33; edited 1 time in total
11 years ago
What a topic! I could write books about it!

I presume AromiErotici labels those as designer brands that produce widely available, mostly mid-priced perfumes, whereas niche means the less widespread, often a bit experimental fragrances that usually but not necessarily have a higher price tag.

I'm afraid I can only comment on men's and unisex fragrances.

I think you can still find good classics in the mid-priced sector, such as some Guerlain fragrances. But the new releases are mostly boring and sometimes consist of ingredients that somehow smell cheap.

At the German parfumo, I sometimes refer to some of those ingredients as scratchy - just like a cheap liquor that instead of being mild makes you cough and gives you a "scratchy" feeling in your throat. The nevertheless wonderful "Amber pour Homme" by Prada is an example for that.

Occasionally, you come across a mid priced designer fragrance where the perfumer has made the best out of rather modest ingredients - this should also be respected. A few musky Hugo Boss fragrances should be mentioned as an example: "Boss Bottled Night" and also "Boss in Motion Edition White".

Some designer brand issues from the last two years follow a very puristic, woody style - and they seem to be the follow-up of that now less popular sport fragrance trend. These fragrances may not be too experimental, instead they focus more or less obvious on tart woods: Almost all DSquared fragrances belong to that group, as well as i.e. Bvlgari Man and Michalsky Homme. I like that style!

I think it is still worth to keep track of what is happening in the mid priced sector. I am always pleased and surprised when I find a new release that is really good, because one would not expect it!

What we should worry about is what is happening with the so called niche sector. In Germany, we lately got the first chain stores (Apropos Concept Stores) that focus on the so called niche perfumes. Niche is currently becoming big business.

Usually, so called niche brands issue 6 or more perfumes at once - all with the same package design. It seems to be more attractive for customers, when they see a respectable row of equal-looking perfume bottles on the shelf. Perfume shops become neat and tidy - chaotic-looking shops that still have their shelves packed with the full variety are obviously less popular. Last year, the most famous german perfume shop (Schnitzler, Düsseldorf) was re-designed in that way. People would travel to Düsseldorf because at Schnitzler's you could get simply "all". Now, they have thrown out a good percentage of their brands.

The problem with those issues of complete lines is that you do not very often find really excellent and outstanding perfumes among them: Byredo, Krigler, By Kilian, Penhaligon's, Huitième Art, Tom Ford, Serge Lutens and others. Some other so called niche brands try to make the customers believe that their high price tags are an indicator of exceptional quality: Amouage, Bond No.9.

Those true niche brands that usually do not release more than one or two excellent perfumes per year get completely out of focus: Divine, Hors Là Monde, Social Creatures, Humiecki & Graef, XPEC, Gentleman, Gravel, Czech & Speake, Nobile 1942, Sisley, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier, Annick Goutal, Ulrich Lang, Piazzini di Portofino, Aqaba - and presumably many others.

I think you can smell if the perfumer was allowed the time necessary to create an outstanding perfume. Not every perfumer seems to be so priviledged as Jean-Paul Guerlain who took more that ten years between his absolutely gorgeous releases of "Chamade Homme" and "Arsène Lupin".
11 years ago
I think the overall quality of designer fragrances is controlled by the greed of the manufactures. They are looking at a target audience with a particular price range. The real issue with today's designer fragrances is the hype and marketing that goes along with the fragrance. Is the fragrance's development really about the fragrance itself or the person's name behind the fragrance that might sell it? I see a different type of competition going on in niche fragrances.
11 years ago
Flaconneur:
I think the overall quality of designer fragrances is controlled by the greed of the manufactures. They are looking at a target audience with a particular price range. The real issue with today's designer fragrances is the hype and marketing that goes along with the fragrance. Is the fragrance's development really about the fragrance itself or the person's name behind the fragrance that might sell it? I see a different type of competition going on in niche fragrances.

Well, selling a plasticky trash scent under the name of Bond No 9 for a large amount of money is not greed? Anyway, I suppose this is not the kind of "niche" the thread-opener was talking about, as I have to admit.
Well, I'm quite new at this hobby (~1 year). So there is still a lot of good stuff to discover in the designer frag world, however I tend towards classics as well. As long as I don't know them all and own the best of them needless to dive deep into the niche world. Well, that's how I see my priorities. However, I can't totally avoid niche frags, samples just come flying to me. I've started gathering stuff from Lutens, one Tauer, getting interested in Eldo. But I think a significant amount of niche firms sell over-hyped crap.
What about the exclusive lines of the traditional houses? Hermèssences, Dior, Chanel, Guerlain? There ist some really good stuff around.
10 years ago
This is definitely a topic that can spark much heated debate. It's a difficult situation that really just boils down to taste and in a certain degree, experience.
One of my reasons for seeking out niche fragrances is that like many others, I'm on the hunt for the ever elusive 'signature' fragrance. Along the way I have become a collector (a passtime I thoroughly enjoy) and probably would not give up collecting now even if that one fragrance presented itself. In niche fragrances I find a world of 'pushing the envelope' and being creative, something lacking (albeit not completely) from the designer market of the last 15 years or so. Notable exceptions include fragrances like Michael Kors by Michael Kors, Encre Noire by Lalique and Mugler's Pure Havane.
Another reason I find myself delving into the niche world is the constant (and irritating) reformulations that destroy my enjoyment of many fragrances that I have loved and lived in since the 80's. Aramis and Chanel are particularly guilty of this destruction. The Tuscany of old has been reduced from a leatherbound roar to a mewling pup whimpering at the teat. Some of the erstwhile giants from Chanel (most notably no 19 and Antaeus) are but a whisper of what they used to be ... and the biggest rub of all ... cost more than they ever did! The same thing has happened at Dior and in a smaller measure at Guerlain. If it comes down to spending money on niche for something with superior longevity and sillage, then that is the route I must take ... personally.
That's what this wonderful exploration into the world of smell hinges on for me ... smelling the way I like to smell (after all, fragrance is about one's personality), and not like 1 Million (sic) other people out there Very Happy.
10 years ago
I pretty much gave up on Designer fragrances when the gourmand trend took hold. For the most part, that genre simply doesn't appeal to me. And the new, "pink" chypres just make me long for the real thing.
10 years ago
Most, if not all, of my designer favorites are not recent releases and several are discontinued, so I agree that designer releases have, by and large, become less interesting. Even once highly respected houses such as Chanel and Guerlain (who gave us No. 19 and Samsara, for cryin' out loud!) have jumped on the bandwagon of safe, often linear, sameness to ensure immediate mass approval at the department store perfume counters. Forget about any discernible drydown progression, aside from waiting for the "scratchy" notes to soften (that's a perfect word for it, Apicius), because most shoppers want a fragrance that smells safe and secure in its sameness, top middle and base. I call it the department store accord, because so many of the newer releases share it. When you walk into the fragrance department, you smell it, then you test a few new relases, and there it is, that same damn department store accord.

Now, that being said, based on my sampling of niche (I'd guess about 35, so far), I've concluded that being more expensive and made of apparently higher quality ingredients and with more artistic integrity does not guarantee or even increase the odds of experiencing the wow factor. A very few have wowed me, most have not rivaled my favorite, albeit older, designer frags, and some have left me shaking my head in disbelief at their thin flatness, synthetic popsicle sweetness and/or shocking lack of projection and lasting power. That's why I think it's all just hit and miss, whether it's niche, designer or drugstore.
10 years ago
Hm, yet another attempt to abuse a term in order to determine quality - although we pretty much all agree that both niche and designer have released good and bad scents. As Coutureguru already wrote: after all it boils down to ones personal taste or personal point of view, and I do not think it is very useful to use terms such as 'niche' and 'designer' in order to find some kind of formula that explains (and justifies) our exceptional taste.

I am more of a newbie in this game, and naturally I started my collection with designers. I have been buying niche now for months exclusively, and honestly: I don't feel there are many designer scents left for me to explore, but then again - I could not live without the designers that I already own, definitely not.

For now I am much more interested in niche brands, but when you explore a scent, it should not matter whether it's niche or designer, should it?
10 years ago
For the most part, I think designer has changed. I do like some celebrity scents, but the fact that I see them displayed in a department store next to Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc., then I meander over to Walmart and see the same kills the luxurious feeling of perfume for me. I know the economy worldwide is not what it used to be, and perfume has been made a little more affordable through smaller sizes and sample sets. Niche has done the same. But the truth is, perfume is supposed to a luxury: we don't need it, but it makes us feel good. Don't get me wrong, I love a good deal on eBay or Amazon; but I'm willing to shell out/save the cash for something I think that is worth the luxury (and that's purely subjective).

I am a fan of the sweet and gourmand perfumes as long as they last a good amount of time on me. I can see where people who DON'T like sweet and gourmand perfumes can be frustrated as the current marketing is not trying to appeal to them much. There are only so many perfumes out there that one would consider unique. When a good amount of women in my age group started wearing Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Victoria's Secret perfumes...that's when I wanted to expand my horizons and try niche perfumes as they are generally unknown by casual perfume wearers.

But all in all, designer has changed. It's way cheaper to buy a bottle of a Burberry perfume than to buy an actual piece from the Burberry wardrobe. The thing about designer is that they are generally known by the public, but niche remains under the radar...which to be honest I am fine with; it makes me feel a little more unique when I wear a niche perfume.
Hmm. 10 years ago
I'm not influenced hardly at all by pop culture. I don't read any fashion mags; I don't own a TV; there's not many new movies that appeal to me. As a result, I really can't say anything about the hype because it just doesn't exist for me.

I love Polo Explorer, Fahrenheit, and the Antikythera Mechanism (BPAL). It seems that all fragrance designers can make something good or something awful whether they are mainstream or niche. If I like it, I buy it and reward their choices. If I don't, then I go buy something else. All I know is that for me, an internet-connected sort of guy, I have tons and tons of choices and I love it.

The only real long-term problem I see is the IFRA reducing the number of elements available to make great scents.
10 years ago
It seems to me that there has been a democratic revolution of sorts in the perfume market. Just look at how many perfumistas there are today as compared to twenty years ago. Because more people are wearing perfume, it has become much more lucrative than ever before. In the past, perfume was a true luxury item, but now it's in near ubiquity.

The design houses used to produce good perfume. They were a source of true perfume. They still do now and then, but for the most part they have become flanker factories: here today, gone tomorrow. This means that the quality once available is simply not the same. So many banal designer perfumes; so little desire to wear any of them!
Rolling Eyes

At the same time, pseudo-niche houses are proliferating like rabbits. Everyone and his mother seems to be a "creative director" these days.

CAVEAT EMPTOR!
Cool
10 years ago
Sherapop:
At the same time, pseudo-niche houses are proliferating like rabbits. Everyone and his mother seems to be a "creative director" these days.

CAVEAT EMPTOR!
Cool

Yes! And some seem to work off the premise that Perception Is Everything. Like how Nordstrom can offer a simple collared t-shirt for men at $50 when the same shirt is at JCP for $20. You know some fool is paying the $50 because it's at Nordstrom, so it must be superior in quality. (Often, it's definitely not.)
10 years ago
Dulcemio:
Sherapop:
At the same time, pseudo-niche houses are proliferating like rabbits. Everyone and his mother seems to be a "creative director" these days.

CAVEAT EMPTOR!
Cool

Yes! And some seem to work off the premise that Perception Is Everything. Like how Nordstrom can offer a simple collared t-shirt for men at $50 when the same shirt is at JCP for $20. You know some fool is paying the $50 because it's at Nordstrom, so it must be superior in quality. (Often, it's definitely not.)

At Neiman Marcus the same one would be at least $100. At Barney's maybe $200. Wink When they all came from the same factory in China, it's a safe bet that the quality is identical.

Seriously, many designers' labels reveal the truth: Made in China--not Italy, not France,...
Rolling Eyes
10 years ago
Sherapop, So true! It's crazy that as absurd as Nordstrom can be, they're not the worst! My shirt example is from many years ago, so I'm sure the prices at Nordstrom and JCP have gone up since then, though still relatively disparate. I will never forget walking over to that simple, cotton, striped collared shirt, thinking, "Wow, something inexpensive at Nordstrom!" only to gasp at the pricetag. And this all seems a fitting analogy to my experience so far with expensive perfumes. Sometimes it's worth the big bucks, sometimes it isn't.
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